State of Panic: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Thriller

STATE OF PANIC
A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller
STATE OF PANIC
A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller
Jack Hunt
Direct Response Publishing

C
opyright
© 2016 by Jack Hunt

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

STATE OF PANIC
is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

F
or my Family

Synopsis

A
fter a U.S anti-missile
system in Europe malfunctions and fires upon Germany, a deadly retaliation follows in the United States with a series of coordinated attacks. Millions are killed, the electrical grid is obliterated, and the country falls into darkness. As remaining survivors are thrust into a state of panic, officers from a wilderness correctional camp in Idaho and a group of delinquents must fight to stay alive while trying to save family and community from murderous neo-Nazi skinheads.

T
he greatest obstacle
to progress is prejudice.

Christian Nestell Bovee

Also by Jack Hunt

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lick
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Renegades series

The Renegades

The Renegades Book 2: Aftermath

The Renegades Book 3: Fortress

The Renegades Book 4: Colony

The Renegades Book 5: United

Mavericks series

Mavericks: Hunters Moon

Time Agents series

Killing Time

Camp Zero series

State of Panic

State of Shock

State of Decay (coming soon)

PROLOGUE

IDAHO, JUNE

AFTER FALLOUT

T
hey were skinheads
. It was a neo-Nazi rally. At a glance, there had to have been at least two hundred of them filling up Main Street in the small town of Mount Pleasant, Idaho. Store signs that once advertised products and services were now covered in sprayed swastikas. Broken glass covered the sidewalk. TVs and mannequins had been dragged out and discarded. My eyes drifted from the unruly to what draped from one side of the street to the other.

A sign emblazed with the words, “White Power.”

As I lay prone on a rooftop peering through the Armasight Orion 4X night vision riflescope, silhouettes of the angry were a hazy green. I focused in on the target with my finger hovering near the trigger just waiting for the go-ahead. Noise drifted up attacking my senses. Punk music blared from speakers powered by a generator. Glass beer bottles smashed and scattered all over the street like confetti.

At the center of the chaos on their knees were five police officers.

I shifted my vision towards a cluster of skinheads chasing down a regular citizen who tried to escape. They didn’t grab him as much as they slammed his body into a wall, then began laying down a vicious beating with steel toe Doc Martens boots.

“Are you seeing this?” I muttered over the radio.

“Don’t do anything stupid, Sam. Wait for my word,” Murphy replied.

I turned my eyes away from the horror, disgusted by the sight of senseless brutality.

How had it come to this? I wished there could have been another way but the world had gone to hell and it wasn’t coming back anytime soon.

From the top of the roof I peered over the tops of buildings to the towering pine trees that hedged in our once tranquil community. Many of the residential homes were set ablaze. Hot, orange tongues flickered in the night sky. Smoke carried on the wind stung my nostrils. My mind drifted back to the way things were before the event that changed the United States.

Mount Pleasant was nestled beneath I-90 in northern Idaho’s Silver Valley. Known for its lumber, mining history and all-season recreation, it had gained the name Pleasant for being exactly that — pleasant. With a population of eight hundred and thirty people, there wasn’t much that happened in the town that wasn’t known by someone. Word traveled fast. Bad reputations lingered.

Our mountainous region attracted all manner of outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe. With deep powder ski hills, bicycle trails and clear alpine lakes, our town was a haven for the heart seeking solitude. Though now it was far from being anything else but anarchy.

My eyes scanned the tops of the mom-and-pop stores to make sure the others were still there. The shadowy figures of Luke and Edgar were in place waiting for Lieutenant Murphy to tell them when. I thought about Corey, Billy and the others back at City Hall. So much had changed since we had met over a month ago. Though we all came from the same town, we were strangers to one another and for a while even enemies. However, now we were bonded under the same unfortunate circumstances.

Our story started long before the United States screwed up or white supremacists retaliated. And though the odds were stacked against us, there was comfort in knowing that we were in this together. No matter what happened — if we lived or died, our short lives would count for something.

The radio crackled.

“Take the shot,” Murphy said over the radio.

His voice sounded like a distant murmur, smothered by the memories of the past.

“Sam. Are you listening? Do it now.”

Again the voice of Murphy barely registered as he made several attempts to get through to me. My mind was lost in the arguments, the years of being bounced around foster homes and my abrupt arrival in Mount Pleasant at the age of fifteen. Two years had passed since that day, and not much had changed. In fact life had continued to spiral out of control. The situation I now found myself in seemed almost fitting. My tarnished track record was only made worse by another stint of trouble with the law over possession of drugs with the intent to sell. And with my latest foster family on a crusade to save me, they agreed with the court order that required attending Camp Zero, a local Wilderness Correctional Camp. It was meant to be my last chance at turning my life around before I reached adulthood.

Escorted to the location blindfolded, I was told that disorientation prevented runaways. Operated by three locals, two ex-military guys and a police officer, the camp was located somewhere up in the isolated Selkirk Mountain Range of northern Idaho. Though the camp had been in operation for no more than two years, it didn’t take long for the place to gain a name for itself, because of the results it delivered. Camp Zero was in the business of do-overs. It was initially started as a summer camp for youth whose parents didn’t have the patience or time to oversee their antics during summer’s months. Over time it evolved and the focus shifted to helping troubled youth.

By troubled, they meant those who had abused alcohol or drugs, were beyond the control of parents, experienced low self-esteem, were rebellious, angry, and defiant or had frequent run-ins with the law. Those who had been suspended or expelled, assaulted others or stolen. The ones who acted out because they suffered from ADHD, chose wrong friends or were socially inept. They accepted the bright but underachieving, the impulsive or hyperactive, the depressed, suicidal, emotionally troubled or simply those who had poor academic achievement.

No one was beyond the reach of being helped.

In their minds, Camp Zero was all about change. At least that was the spiel we got when I arrived a month ago. How long I was meant to be there was unknown. The program was open-ended. Usually it was a couple of months but that was cut short by the blackout.

“Sam! Take the shot!” Murphy’s voice bellowed over the radio snapping me back into the present chaos.

The finger trembled. My heart slammed against my chest. I’d never killed anyone before. I never had a reason to. My breathing became rapid as I tried to think of any other way this could be avoided. As I brought my finger closer to the cold metal, I glanced at the small black swastika tattoo on the inside of my wrist. A wave of regret washed over me. What had I done? They had drawn me in with open arms and talk of brotherhood and purpose. Of course, it was all bull, just a mask to hide the hate, racism and disdain for anyone who opposed. I knew that now but it was a little too late.

I brought my right eye back to the scope, and focused in on the chest of the skinhead.

I knew my target. My head shook slightly. It could have been me down there.

A moment’s hesitation; uncertain if I could do it.

“Take the shot!” Murphy deafened me with his yell.

One final glance at the officers on their knees.

If I didn’t take action now they would die.

I swallowed hard.
Oh God forgive me
.

A slow steady exhale from my lungs.

Then I squeezed the trigger.

CAMP ZERO

1 DAY BEFORE BLACKOUT

CAMP ZERO, NORTHERN IDAHO

L
t. Scot Murphy
had taken our group of twelve hiking in the Selkirk Range when the fight erupted. Murphy moved quickly from the front of the line to the back while Officer Kate Shaw and Dan kept an eye on the rest of us.

“Hand it over!” Corey Logan loomed over Billy Manning who was on the floor nursing a cut lip.

Corey Logan. Now there was a guy with some issues. By the age of sixteen he had already assaulted four people and stolen multiple cars. His father had left him when he was six and with his mother holding down two jobs just to make ends meet, anything he couldn’t get his hands on he stole. Trying to stop him was a fool’s game. For sixteen he was tall. He towered over the rest of us with more meat on his bones than the four of us put together. He said it was muscle of course. No one argued. When he wasn’t reminding us of how this place was a prison, he kept to himself. Seeing him in the wilderness squatting down I had a sense that the guy was like a sleeping lion. You might have thought you could get something by him but if he caught you, you were screwed.

“Alright, break it up. What’s going on?”

“That pocketknife you guys gave me. He stole it out of my backpack.”

Corey had earned the privilege to carry one over the past week by demonstrating that he was capable of not only performing simple tasks like starting a fire, reading a map or completing the asinine assignments we were given, but he had shown a sense of leadership in trying to help others to do the same. Though some might wonder what it was like in that first month. Let me just say, some of those tasks weren’t bad. We were taught how to toss a tomahawk at a tree, fire a bow and whether it was a mistake of theirs or not, they even gave each of us a chance to fire off a few rounds at a bunch of cans. Not that we hadn’t done that before. Hunting was big in Idaho and if you weren’t raising hell in your local town, a person might be found hunting. It was one of the first things my foster parent Brett had introduced me to. I think he thought it was a good way to bond. I just saw it as way to let out pent-up frustration. But there was definitely something about driving out to the mountains, with four-wheelers and camouflaged canoes that felt good.

Anyway, some might have said that handing a pocketknife to anyone at a camp for delinquents was idiotic. And they wouldn’t be far wrong. I had to admit it went completely contrary to what other places might have done but there was something about the approach they took with us that made us feel respected. That or perhaps it was because everyone was shit scared of Murphy and Dan. Ex-military guys, built like Spartans with a few rough edges, they carried themselves in a way that made you think twice before pissing them off.

Even with us knowing their history it didn’t stop some of the guys from acting like dicks.

“Did you take it, Billy?”

Billy stared back at Murphy for a few seconds then fished around in his pocket. He held up the knife. “You want it?” He tossed it a few feet away. “Go get it.” Corey gave him a strong kick in the shin before shuffling away to find it.

“Don’t say you didn’t deserve that,” Murphy said before returning to the front of the line.

What can be said about Billy Manning? He was a scrawny little punk who talked way too much. He was so hyperactive and impulsive, anyone would have thought he was on drugs. Since he had arrived, he had been a constant thorn in the side for everyone. In the first three days he thought he could get himself sent home if he acted like he had mental problems. From taking off his clothes in the middle of the hike and doing a runner, through to pissing on the campfire, the guy knew how to push people’s buttons. How the hell he ended up in here and not in a psychiatric facility was beyond me. Billy came from a rich family. His father and mother owned a local logging company. With his father expecting him to work in the business he didn’t see the point in schooling so he rarely attended. When he did, he was usually sporting a shiner. No one asked where it came from but most kind of figured it was his father. The guy was as much a lunatic as Billy. A frequent drinker down at Mick’s place, a bar on Main Street, he was known for drinking hard, starting fights and heading into the local motel with someone who wasn’t his wife. Word got around that Billy caught him in the act and suffered the consequences. The kid couldn’t sit down for a week after that. Of course he told everyone that it was a motorcycle accident. We weren’t buying it.

Murphy’s eyes darted between the two of them. He sighed, took off the skull and bones bandana and used it to wipe the sweat from his forehead. We were six hours into a grueling twenty-mile hike and tensions were riding high. It was to be expected. Frustration led to boredom. Everything had to be earned. Tree bark was used as utensils when eating, backpacks were made from tarp and a pocketknife was only given to those who had demonstrated they could be trusted. Beyond that, we carried only blankets, sleeping bags, a pot and the bare minimum food which none of us liked. In all honesty, it wasn’t bad. It consisted mainly of lentils, rice, oats, wheat flour, dried beans, bouillon cubes and dried chili. But after coming off a diet of junk food it was like taking a kick to the gut.

The first week was like hell. From the time I entered we had been told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Each of us received a list of rules. Do this. Don’t do that. That was followed by a complete full-body strip search, which Luke Penn had objected to. When asked to squat and cough, Luke took a shit and then tossed the excrement at Dan.

I had to admit he was a strange dude but he sure broke the ice that day. The others were in fits of laughter. As childish as the act might have seemed, it was his final attempt to kick back at authority.

Luke was in the last year of high school. He was the kind of guy I saw huddled together with the emos at school. Black hair that hung like curtains over his eyes, black fingernails and more piercings than a person should have. He was a cliché waiting to happen. Suicidal, defiant and angry at everything in life, he kept his distance from the rest of us. One day he was asked to name one thing he liked about life. All he could come up with was jerking off. After which, he flipped Murphy the bird.

When Corey returned from finding his knife, he glared at Billy.

“You know you’re not helping yourself, Billy,” Shaw said.

Officer Kate Shaw. I knew her well. My frequent run-ins with the law had exposed me to our town’s finest. It wasn’t a large police department and with the amount of times I had screwed up, it didn’t take me long to be introduced to them all. This was her first year helping out with the program. Murphy had made it clear right at the start that she was using her vacation time to assist and if anyone disrespected her they would have to answer to him.

After a thorough strip search, we were each given a set of mundane-looking clothes and boots. Red hoodies, khaki military pants and sandy-colored boots. They wanted us to look the same and act the same to avoid any conflicts.

“Okay, guys, listen up. We are going to camp here for the night. So go ahead and set up your tents.”

By tents they meant shitty tarps draped over low-hanging branches. If you didn’t tie them down, it would flap in the wind and you’d experience nature up close and personal.

I slumped down onto my knees and rolled back releasing the fifteen-pound weight off my back. All of us groaned and began checking our feet for blisters. The back of my heels were red raw. The first week in the wilderness was brutal. Some of the guys hadn’t even set up a tent in their backyard, let alone spent a night with Mother Nature.

“How much longer are you going put us through this?” Luke asked. “I would kill for a cigarette.”

Lt. Scot Murphy — or Murphy as he liked to be called — threw his bag down and went over to Luke and began rooting through his bags.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Where have you been keeping them?”

“What?”

“The cigarettes.”

“I don’t have any.”

We all looked on with morbid curiosity. It wasn’t like when we first got here. Back then every few hours someone in our group took over the reins of playing the clown. Now the honeymoon period had worn off and we just wanted to go home. But that wasn’t going to happen under Murphy’s watch.

Murphy was an ex-Navy SEAL. A patriot you might say. He knew how to whip someone into shape and had a built-in bullshit detector that worked like magic. Regardless of why each of us was here, I think we all respected him to some degree. The guy knew his stuff. He’d already shown us that when we thought we had reached our breaking point, we could go further. That’s why most days we hiked for miles upon miles. He said it allowed us to think about where we had come from and the choices that had led us to being here. Initially we all just thought he was full of shit and was trying to punish us.

Within a matter of minutes, all of Luke’s stuff was scattered on the ground. Murphy began fishing through the sealed-up bags of dry food.

“He has it up his ass,” Billy said.

Luke frowned. “Screw you, Manning.”

“No, I’m telling you that’s where these guys like to store it. I knew a dealer a few towns over that kept his gear inside a tied baggie and then shoved it up his rectum, leaving just a small amount of the bag hanging out. That way if the cops ever raided his place he wouldn’t get caught.”

“And you know this because?” someone in the group asked.

“Everyone knows it. Isn’t that right, Sam?”

“Whatever, man,” I replied.

“Alright, get up and head over to the bushes,” Murphy said.

“You can’t be serious?” Luke protested.

Murphy didn’t even need to reply. We had all become accustomed to Murphy’s stare. Come to think of it, we had become accustomed to a lot of things that he, Dan and Officer Shaw didn’t like. Unlike the people who ran some other correctional camps, these guys didn’t get angry or upset at us. They wore us down by not giving in.

We watched Luke trudge off into a thick set of bushes. Billy laid back on his sleeping bag and chuckled to himself. “What a guy.”

A few minutes later Murphy reappeared from behind the bush. Using twigs like BBQ tongs, he held out in front of him a small plastic bag full of tobacco and papers. Murphy tossed it on the ground and proceeded to make a fire to burn Luke’s private stash. When Luke emerged, he was red in the face and downcast.

“I told you,” Billy crossed his arms behind his head and breathed deeply. Truth be told, both of us had used the same dealer. I’d passed by Billy on numerous occasions. Back then we never said a word to each other. That’s how I knew there was truth to what he had said. The dealer was pretty straight up about it. Almost boasting that he hadn’t been caught because it was an old method used by criminals and no cop in a small town was going to go through the trouble of doing a cavity search. The county didn’t pay them enough, he would say.

We all spent the next twenty minutes constructing our makeshift tents out of branches and tarp. They weren’t ideal and there had been a few nights it had dropped below zero but they kept the rain off our heads. The only thing I worried about were rattlesnakes. I hated them. The thought of waking up in the night with one of them inside my sleeping bag was disconcerting.

We had set up camp close to the Kootenay River. All of us were involved in gathering wood, cooking and whatever else they wanted us to do.

“So Murphy, you ever had any runners?” Corey asked.

He gazed into fire and prodded glowing embers with the end of his stick. “A couple.”

“Did they get far?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“Look around you, guys. You want to hike out of here, be my guest. You won’t get far.”

He was right. After all the walking we had done, by the time we dropped our gear none of us had the strength to try and escape. And there would have been no point. The local cops would have picked us up and brought us right back. Every single one of us was here because the court had ordered it. Murphy and Officer Shaw knew Judge Wickins. They had made some agreement with him to send troubled teens to their camp. So, it wasn’t just a case of our parents saying that we were out of control and two months in the wilderness would solve all our problems. We had ruffled the wrong feathers, and even the judge wanted to wash his hands of us.

I stared around at the others. Some of them I had got to know, most kept to themselves and just seemed as if they wanted to get through the program. Corey, Billy and Luke were the only ones that came from the same area as me. The other eight were from surrounding towns.

Before my arrival, I’d head about the place. Camp Zero had earned a name for itself as the location parents sent their kids if they wanted to see real change. I’d seen Murphy around town picking up supplies or having breakfast with Dan. I just never imagined I would end up here.

“So what’s the deal with the women? Why aren’t there any babes in this place? No offense, Kate,” Billy said.

“None taken.”

Kate was rolling out a sleeping bag. I eyed her from across the fire. To us, she was Officer Shaw. However, Billy liked to call her by her first name. The few times I had seen her outside of the station were when she was patrolling our sleepy little town. She was a single mother who had lived her entire life in Mount Pleasant. Her daughter Kiera was one of those sporty cheerleader types who tended to spend more time cheering the jocks on and wiggling her tush more than anything else. I often wondered if it was just a front. With her mother as a cop and all, I imagined she had to keep up appearances, say all the right things and look as if she was excelling. The community of Mount Pleasant was big on keeping up appearances. Town hall meetings every Wednesday usually got quite a turnout, signs up and down the streets were cleaned on a weekly basis, and people mowed their yards to keep up with the joneses. It was sad to think that at one time all those adults had been like us in one way or another.

“There are usually girls here but this last intake we had more guys. We rolled the girls over into the next program.”

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